SOMETHING ON THE BRINK OF DEATH IS STUCK UNDER MY OVER

 

 

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I’m on all fours, straining to flick out the blue, wriggling tail that’s slide under my oven.

I need something long, but not sharp.

 Alexa…Will a butter knife cut a beta fish?

Alexa…how long, can this thing live out of water?

Goodness, my daughter is crying. She begged to help me transfer the fish into his clean water bowl. She didn’t want to help, she wanted to do it herself.

I knew it was a bad idea. We’ve had London two years now. I’ve made it clear to him,

If you jump out and fall on the floor, I’m not picking you up. You’ll die there, buddy.

However, when the tragedy unfolded, I couldn’t let him die, undignified, on a sticky kitchen floor.

No. I’d save his life! And I did. He was softer than I’d imagined. Gross…but soft.

I kinda, sorta, totally love him.

I imagine we’ve all pleaded with God to give us something. Unlike me, he’s a perfect parent. My fuzzy feelings for London the fish, are nothing compared to the love God has for the desires of my heart.

He knows when we’re ready.

He knows when we’re not.

We may drop the responsibility on the floor, shrink behind a stool and cry. Not because we don’t want to please God, but because we aren’t equipped yet for the call.

For years, I’ve asked God,

Why have you allowed so many trials in our pursuit of adoption?

I’ve begged and begged…

Just let us do this Lord!!

He’s answered on several occasions the same way,

I’m making you stronger.

I don’t know all the reasons we’re asked to wait. However, I do know there is perfectly holy reason for every situation. Sometimes he waits because I haven’t allowed him to shape my desires to his perfect will.

Desires of the heart aren’t docile and tame. More often, hope slips out of our hands and wedges itself in a hot, messy crevice. When it does, we can’t flip out and pronounce it dead. We need to be ready to get on our knees and breathe life into it through arduous prayer.

The third time the door shut on adoption; I swear the rupture in my heart was audible.

But I remembered, Jesus was, “a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.” (Isaiah 53:3)

I also know he pushed through, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross.” (Hebrews 12:2)

There was a joy our Savior didn’t reach until he endured great suffering. He knew the suffering was worth it because there was incomprehensible joy on the other end.

God cherishes the desires of our hearts so immensely, he won’t hand them over until our hands are perfectly aligned with his for safe transfer. Then, we must allow his hands to cup our own and lead us in the right direction.

So many times, I’ve pulled away from his will and forged the journey on my own.  He’s super patient. He’s watched countless ‘fish’ splat on my life’s floor.

Every so often, by his grace, my hold stays in perfect unison with his. This doesn’t mean things move forward without a hitch. I can’t flawlessly love and persevere like Jesus. But when something on the brink of death is stuck under my oven, I don’t freak out like I used to.

I understand desires of our hearts require constant care and dedication.  We need to love them as much as God does. Sometimes, it’s necessary to face things that once grossed us out; like picking up a fish or seeing the corrupt underbelly of adoption institutions.

Whatever God places in my little hands, is something he totally adores. He doesn’t give it to me to watch it suffocate. He has to make me brave enough to stretch into the unknown and fight for its life when things get shaky.

God withholds, until we’re prepared to take holy-hold of the things he loves.

 

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. “

Ecclesiastes 3:11

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Tending to Hope Among the Decay

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She’s waiting.

I’m worried.

If one more soccer ball crashes against our disintegrating patio cover, it might collapse. At our house, that’s every 2 minutes.  I’ve learned not to judge other mammas. But, seriously. Why did this sweetie choose such a precarious place to nest her egg?!

We named her Penelope. She’s the best little mamma, tirelessly tending to the hope beneath her. She wants to be ready when life breaks through. Her delicate frame flutters about, eyes watching for the slightest movement. She rests, but not for long.

Her focus is constant.

My focus has changed.

Instead of wishing we’d tear down our patio cover and replace it with beautiful wood, I’m praying it stays up. I’m rooting for the budding life, cupped in splintered hands. My eyes go straight to the nest now.

I no longer look at the defective, but at the life I’ve detected.  I love sitting under my creaky shade, cup of coffee in hand, watching for new life with my feathered soul sister.

We’re so eager to tear down things that aren’t perfectly lovely in our life. We don’t want to look at rickety boards and chipped paint. We don’t want to have awkward conversations and squint to see potential. Nurturing hope is intentional work. The world doesn’t have patience for this. It preaches,

If your marriage is struggling, tear it down.

If your friend betrays you, close the door.

If your dream shreds easily, throw it out.

If your ministry doesn’t grow, give up.

STOP.

This is the world’s way. It is not God’s way.

Don’t bring in the demolition crew so quickly. Look for life. Even if the promise is huddled in a fragile shell.

When the Lord brought Ezekiel to a valley of dry bones, he asked, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Ezekiel answered, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” (Ezekiel 37:3)

And God did know.

He spoke to the bones, “I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’” (Ezekiel 37:6b)

Ezekiel saw dry bones. God saw an opportunity for a miracle. Anyone can bring death to a situation. Only God can bring life.

Walking away from a valley of dry bones is not God’s way.

Breathing life into them is God’s way.

Raising the dead is His way.

Letting a baby bird hatch in a termite palace, is His way.

Hover over these truths. Be patient. Keep praying. Ask for God’s spirit to breathe into every situation.

Try not to focus on broken boards framing the circumstances…choose to find the nesting egg, the dry bones that God can bring to life.

Always tend to the hope among the decay.

If you do, you’ll be ready to welcome new life like Penelope.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)

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Don’t Cry Mom

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Don’t cry Mom.

I know you and Dad saw a piece of our early childhood bruised and lonely. The owners neglected it like a stray cat. Its ribs poking out, its rosy complexion, pale and lifeless. Your nostalgic ‘drive by’ led you to the ugliest house on the block. The cushy grass you trampled to scoop us after a fall, is crunchy and brown. The sidewalk where Dad chased close behind as I learned to ride my bike, is cracked and uneven. Not a trace of tender attention you’d poured into it was reflected in the rear-view mirror.

Don’t be sad.

That house wasn’t built to last. The space where your grandchildren gather to giggle and bake, won’t last either. The olive tree in the front that every neighborhood kid triumphantly climbed, has already passed away. The gaping hole where it once reached to the sky, reminds me, life is a breath.

Houses of wood and stone and brick crumble. The branches of epic climbing trees rot away.

I want you and Dad to know one thing…

You’ve built a house for me more gorgeous than any Zillow listing; 

A house built on Christ, the solid rock.

When you prayed over dinner, over sickness or at the foot of my bed as I drifted off…

 A strong foundation was poured-

Prayer wasn’t only for hard times.

Prayer was for all times.

Prayer was for everything in my life.

When you brought us to spend long afternoons piecing together puzzles with widows like ‘Grandma Myrtle’, I didn’t understand…

 A thoughtful frame was being pieced together-

Love is patient & kind.

Everyone is worthy.

 I was worthy.

When you’d order bags of extra hamburgers at Burger King to hand out to the homeless man after church, I was unsure of the filthy, life-worn hands grabbing at the food…

Strong walls were being raised in my life-

God sees everyone.

God loves everyone.

God sees and loves me.

When I woke up exhausted the morning of my baptism burdened with bad dreams, you helped me get dressed. You rolled down my ruffled sock whispering, ‘There’s an enemy. He doesn’t want you to get baptized. You cannot let him win’…

The roof of my spiritual house was secured-

I would experience fierce battles in my life.

My God was stronger and fiercer.

God made me strong and fierce.

Now that I’m a Mommy, I want my precious kiddos to dwell in a solid spiritual house like the one you created for me.  I thought of this as I baptized my children, your grandchildren, in the very pool you’ve generously opened up to friends and neighbors for the past 32 years. I felt God beaming with pride as Aaron and I dipped their precious heads back into the water.

The Great Commission starts in the home. I learned this from you. I’m aware God will equip us to build a spiritual house with a unique rhythm and calling.

But it’s not a new house.

We’re expanding the construction you’ve started. Just as you added a fresh wing to what your parents crafted for you.

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock”. Matthew 7:24-25

Mom and Dad, the rain has fallen, the floods have come, winds have blown and beaten on the house…but it has not fallen. It never will.

One day, we’ll dwell in the house of the Lord together, forever.  The grass will never turn a dusty brown and paint will never peel. There will be more than one olive tree for your grandchildren, and their great grandchildren to climb. I imagine we’d have tears of joy…if tears were allowed. But they’re not. So don’t cry Mom.

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Real Faith is for Real Life

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Do you really have to mash it behind your head like that?!

Please! Don’t use the pillow as a food tray.

I beg you, don’t put the pillow between your legs. Fabrics absorb smells, sweetie!

Seriously…who thought it was OK to put a muddy cleat here?!

Why is Every. Single. Pillow. On the floor?!

I’m dying.

I’ve been drooling over extraordinary pillows for the past year. Yes, there is such a thing as ‘extraordinary pillows’. They live at Anthropology, where it smells like a magical forest.

I want them. However, they’re a gazillion dollars. You can’t always get what you want.

Target came to the rescue with some adorable Anthro knock-offs.  So, for Mother’s Day, I pointed them out as, would be a great gift from the kiddos! (wink wink).

I see them enthroned on my 11-year-old, stained couch, and smile.

They’re pretty. It’s simple as that.

Or is it?

These lovely pillows have awakened some alternate Type A personality in me.

My poor family. Relaxing is no longer allowed. It might disturb the decorative pillows.

I’m being ridiculous. What’s the point of having pillows, if I’m worried they’ll be ruined at the slightest touch?

I’ve found myself asking the same question about my faith. What’s the point of claiming faith, if I’m too afraid it will fall apart when life leans hard against it?

Sometimes I view my faith as decorative. I can admire how lovely it sits on the throne of my existence, but when the big, dirty cleats of life tread on it, my shoulders tighten. Deep down, I question…will this destroy my faith? And if it does, what does that mean about God?

In the moments I’ve dared to pick up my faith, stomp on it, wrestle it, punch it with questions and bitterness, I’ve realized…

Real faith, is for real life.

And real life doesn’t smell like Anthropoligie. God doesn’t want us to be afraid to throw all our junk at it full force. The faith he gives is not a cheap knock off. It’s the real deal.

Paul tells us, ‘We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed’. (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

If we’re taking our faith along for the ride, it will endure the same refining.

I’ve fallen face first into my faith and sobbed. I’ve thrown it powerfully against my closet doors and cursed it a liar. But the real lie is in thinking broken faith isn’t fixable.

I’ve lifted my faith up to the Lord, tattered, dirty, horribly misshapen with stuffing pouring out at every ripped seam. I’ve felt ashamed, like a little girl who ruined her new doll by leaving it in the rain.

Look what I’ve done to the gift you gave me, Father. I took it out in the storm with me. Look at this mess…

His eyes are on me.

Sweet girl, I knit you together in your mother’s womb.

I can knit your faith back together, too.

And he always does. His healing fabric is durable, his stitch, solidly perfect. He knew the whole time that the testing of my faith would produce perseverance in me. (James 1:3)

I am weak. My God is strong. When I offer Him my feeble faith, HE strengthens it.

Maybe there’s just a frayed corner that remains of your faith.

That’s OK. He just needs faith the size of a mustard seed to move mountains in your life. (Matthew 17:20)

We must approach God with our brokenness, so we experience him as Healer.

After the battle, our faith proves to be the comforting truth we rest our heart upon at the end of the day.

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Church and State Separated by a Foot

 

feet1-3“I HAVE TO GET BAPTIZED! LIKE…RIGHT NOW!’

The rambunctious audience hushed. It was a stuffy 98 degrees, egg salad stench elbowed it’s way down the aisle. I might throw up. But this. Every annoyance slipped into the background. My eyes welled up, looking at this 10-year-old girl who had just catapulted off her seat.  She was serious and passionate. Having given her heart to Jesus just weeks before, she meant business.

Emily, if you want to get baptized, we’ll make sure it happens!

You may imagine this took place during Sunday school. Nope.

This scene played out on the side of the road, in a 20-year-old trailer…outside a Public School.  This is my first year teaching ‘Chapel on Wheels’. If you’re not familiar, public school kiddos get permission from their parents to trek out to a hot, crowded, sometimes smelly, propped up, blessed trailer.

Church and state are separated by 12 inches out on the curb.

All across Orange County, kids give up their lunch recess to participate.

Why?!

To hear about Jesus.

To know they’re loved.

To believe they matter.

Last week, a woman from South Africa peeked in utter confusion, Is this a Church?!

Well…kind of. For 45 minutes…it’s church to these kids.

She threw her hands up, AH! Can you believe it?! They took God out of schools and kicked him out on the street!!

It made me laugh out loud. It does sound ironically sad. But believe me, God can’t be kicked out of any place. Satan is such a liar. It’s both laughable and infuriating.

Joseph was told there was no room at the inn for Jesus to be born. (Luke 2:6-7)

Guess what?

No room, did NOT mean, No Jesus.

He still came.

We may not like the thought of our precious King being born in stable. Many grieve that there is no longer room for Jesus in the Public schools. But guess what?!

No room, does NOT mean, No Jesus.

He still comes.

People we love may fix a ‘NO ROOM FOR JESUS’ sign atop their relationships.

No room, does NOT mean Jesus hasn’t come for them, either. He may be waiting a foot away from their heart-wrenching defiance.

Joseph and Mary didn’t go far from those that denied them space. They stayed close to the walls that kept them out, confident Jesus would be delivered.

At times, God will call us to remain near to walls, circumstances, governments and friendships that have no room for Jesus. I want to encourage you to stand strong and don’t give up on them! God knows you love them. He loves them more. He passionately desires to be delivered into their hearts. He may be asking you to be the midwife. Jesus is coming!

A stinky stable didn’t keep kings, wise men and shepherds from coming to see Jesus. And apparently, a stinky trailer hasn’t kept rowdy 5th graders from him either! God can do his thing anywhere.

‘KEEP OUT’ signs are really ‘KEEP PRAYING’ signs.

We can sit outside public schools, government buildings, brothels, broken relationships, fractured families and pray. No wall, no law, no enemy can keep Jesus out.

I say this confidently!  Twenty kids accepted Jesus as Lord in our funky little trailer this year. I never imagined this happening. Emily is getting baptized, along with other kids from Chapel on Wheels this Sunday. We didn’t have to go into the schools. We simply had to nestle ourselves up against the cold curb and deliver Jesus. He came.

So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11

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Encouraging Facts:

Chapel on Wheels (aka Released Time), came to LA in 1942. Yorba Linda started the program in 1953, starting with just 3 schools and 1 trailer. NOW, the Placentia/Linda School District has 7 trailers, 21 schools and a staff of 52 volunteers! The program averages 356 students in our local community. So awesome.

Mamma Crossroads & Pinterest Fails

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The night before Micah’s class party, I noticed an unread message in my Inbox.  The Class Mom was thanking me for volunteering to bring the Carrot & Celery Turkey Cups…

Turkey Cups?! UGH! I thought I’d signed up for carrot and celery sticks.

Apparently, I didn’t scroll down to the bottom of her previous email. I’d missed the Pinterest example she’d attached. How could I make such a rookie mistake?!

If having elementary school kiddos has taught me anything, it’s ALWAYS scroll to the END of email messages. For real. Read. The. Whole. Thing.

If you don’t, you’ll miss crucial sentences:

  • Please have your child dress like his/her favorite super hero
  • RSVP yesterday or your kids won’t get a party favor
  • Shhhhh! It’s a surprise!!

It was too late to make a frantic Michael’s run. A crazy-lady-mental- inventory would have to suffice:

Plastic cups.

Brown paper.

I THINK I have orange paper.

But those eyes…no way I was cutting teensy-tiny circles this late.

I’m pretty sure I have sticky googly eyes in the closet. Although, I’m not sure why…

Ah, yes…I had googly eyes. But not one was the same size!

I was at a Mamma crossroads: Do I use what I have, or just throw in the towel?

Isn’t life like that? We don’t have the ‘perfect’ thing to offer, so we’re tempted to offer nothing.

If it’s not mismatched googly eyes, it’s a house that’s too small for gatherings, only an hour a week to write or lasagna that’s not as good as mom’s.

So why help in the classroom?

Why invite people over?

Why write a blog?

It’s hard to give from areas we feel less than. The enemy hisses in these shallow spaces, God can’t use this, don’t even bother.

Really, Satan?!!

 Because, I remember a boy who offered five small loaves and two small fish. Jesus used it to feed multitudes. (John 6:9)

I know a story about a widow who offered a little oil and a handful flour. God never allowed her jars to run dry. (1 Kings 17:7-16)

There once was a man slow of speech and tongue. He was hesitant to offer his voice. God used him to stand against Pharaoh and set his people free. (Exodus 4:10)

As a Mamma, sometimes all I can offer is a pile of dirty dishes, never-ending laundry, sick kiddos and pets I forget to feed. We all have moments like Moses saying to God,  Are you sure you want this? I don’t have much to offer you.

Offer it anyway.

He sees every scrap of bread, shaky insecurity, dirty sock and mismatched googly eye we raise up to him.  He’ll use it! He delights in making small things significant.

God gives us joy when we give from our shortage, rather than our supply.

This creates space for God to show up, not only in our lives, but in the lives of others. Jesus fed hungry masses in response to a boy’s meager offering. He provided security for the widow’s child when she presented a handful of flour. Moses set people free, laying bare his shortcomings, trusting God to use them.

The kiddos and I giggled up late finishing those silly cups.  Life isn’t always dramatic. Those awful turkeys didn’t set any captives free, but God handed us back layers of laughter that overflowed into the classroom the next morning.

We used what we had. It was enough for God to turn into joy.

A Marked Life:

Share how God used something small you offered and multiplied it into something unexpected! Click on ‘Comments’ on the top left.

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Sometimes, All You Can Do Is Hang On

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If I look down, I’ll fall!

And then…my kids will tumble off…

If we survive, we’re doomed! I didn’t pack any snacks or hand sanitizer.

Welcome to me…unhinged in a National Park. Fear of heights is a relatively new blessing. Something short circuited when Aaron and I were newlyweds. On top of the Sacred Heart church in Paris, a strong wind blew. I stopped. Dropped. And rolled into the fetal position.

We kept the shovel he used to scrape me off the floor as a souvenir.

Ever since, I imagine myself plunging to my death at the slightest heights. My sweet husband thinks I’ve lost my mind. I don’t even allow the kids to walk next to the mall railing on the second floor.

It freaks me out.

What if they decide to climb over and jump to Santa?!

It could happen.

If anyone fell off this cliff in Sequoia, Santa wouldn’t be there to catch us.

I decided the best way to prevent a tragedy, was to glue my face, arms, legs and stomach to the cold stone; like a flattened fruit roll up. This offered room for other hikers to push past.

Yes, this was a good idea

Mommy! Aren’t you going to the top with us?!

Nah…Mommy is going to smell this rock for a bit.

People were staring. Some tried to help, Do you need a tissue? Essential oil?

I don’t reminisce over this snapshot often.

However, I’m a visual learner. I’ve been asking God to teach me by showing me. During worship on Sunday, God brought this distressed picture of Jenna to the forefront.

There I was, clinging to the side of the cliff.  When I looked down, I was seized with fear. When I looked up, the clouds were crushing me. But, just like in Sequoia, if I kept my face towards the rock, I knew I would be OK.

He was clear.

This is what you look like, Jenna. You’re panicking. Stop looking away from the rock.

We’re living through a season of great unknown in our adoption journey. I don’t know how to stop shifting my gaze in every direction. I’m looking for answers.

Will this break me, Lord?

Will any good come out of this?

God is the fire by night, the cloud by day. But he is always the rock.

There is no Rock like our God. (1 Samuel 2:2)

King David was protected by the rock, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge …’(2 Samuel 2-3).

The Israelites were pursued by the rock,  “…for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:1-4)

God’s people were given sweet provision from the rock, “He nourished him with honey from the rock, and with oil from the flinty crag” (Deuteronomy 32:13 )

There’s no shame in taking a season to stop and grasp to the rock…the rock that is Christ.

We were made to climb with Jesus.

Honestly, there are days all I can do is cling to Him.

God knows. He gives grace if we’re not ready to forge to the top. But, it’s those pesky what ifs that pry our fingers from our stronghold. We glance down and imagine our broken bodies at the bottom. Even more, our shattered expectations of what God should’ve done.

I have a choice. I’m learning to train my thoughts to press back into the solid rock. My arms wrapped tight around Jesus.

Yes. This is a good idea.

I may look like a crazy-lady-pancake fastened to my faith. I’m not ashamed.

God answered my question. Can any good come from this?

Yes.

God’s protection,

God’s pursuing love,

God’s sweet provision.

This time, I’m not gripped by fear, but faithfulness. I’ll be brave enough to climb again soon.

For now, I’m just going to hang on.

 

A Marked life:

If you don’t feel strong enough to climb, it’s OK to cling. 

There is no Rock like our God!